Monday, December 7, 2009

Beautiful Beyond Description

Costa Rica

The sky was heavily overcast as we made our way to the Arenal Observatory Lodge where we were staying. We really could not see more than a few yards because of the rain, low hanging clouds, fog, and mist. We checked in, found our room, then hauled our luggage in and started getting settled. Just then the skies began to clear. We walked out on our balcony to this view. It was breathtakingly beautiful, like something out of another world. I wish my pictures could do it justice, but they look pathetically inadequate compared to what my eyes saw!! We sat on our balcony from then until dark, mesmerized by what the play of light from the setting sun, and the ever changing cloud formations did to this amazing vista. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it. I must have taken 300 pictures. We were much closer to the volcano than these pictures show. This is because in order to get all the beautiful cloud formations included, I had to use an ultra wide angle lens which, of course, alters the perspective.

The lodge used to be a station for scientists observing and measuring seismic activity, so it is very close, but does have a ravine in front for protection. This is a very active volcano. You are seeing partly cloud cover and partly steam and gas escaping from the top. As we sat there we could hear rumbling from deep inside, accompanied by the very eerie sound of howler monkeys in the distance. We learned that on clear nights for the past 4-5 years you could see lava spewing from the top, but just 5 days before we arrived the lava stopped. This is not a good thing we were told, because it may be an indication of a build up for a major eruption, and people have been killed in past eruptions.

Something that made this area so unique and beautiful was the diversity of vegetation. We were in a rain forest, yet mixed among the tropical foliage were tall, beautiful pine trees. It seemed strange to see exotic flowers, vines, and palms climbing up and growing next to pine trees. We hiked to waterfalls and saw many beautiful sights in this area, but none compared to the grandeur of this volcano surrounded by a thousand shades of green.

I'll post a few of my favorite Costa Rica memories every day or so, but for any of you who would like to overdose on about 600 photos right now you can see them here.